Is unlimited hydroplane racing moving from the Steve David Dynasty to the Jimmy Shane Dynasty?
That was a reaction many unlimited hydroplane racing fans may have had over the offseason when it was announced Shane, arguably the sport’s top young driver, had been hired by the Oberto racing team, one of the circuit’s top teams.
David drove the Oberto to six national drivers titles in the last nine years before retiring last season. Shane drove the Graham Trucking to last year’s national title, edging out David in the final race of the season.
Joining the Oberto team wasn’t an automatic move for Shane.
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“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made,” Shane said. “I did not want to leave Graham.”
But the chance to join one of the top teams in the sport was too good to pass up.
“I decided if I did not take the Oberto ride, I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity in the near future to take it,” he said.
It’s been instant success.
Shane may have been 3-for-3 this season except for a penalty in the championship heat of the season-opening race in Madison, Indiana. Shane drew an early start penalty and finished sixth.
He followed with a win in Detroit for the Gold Cup, giving the Oberto team, which is owned by the city of Madison, its first Gold Cup since 1971. Last week, he won on the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities.
Shane has built up a big lead in the National High Points standings and seems poised for his second national title.
And maybe he’s becoming the new face of the sport, filling the void left by Dave Villwock and David?
“It does look that way,” said legendary driver Chip Hanauer, who does TV analysis these days. “I think the sport’s in very good hands if that’s the case. He has a tremendous amount of ability.”
But Shane, 28, won’t be running away with titles. The H1 Unlimited field has cache of talented, young drivers.
“There’s more talent than I’ve ever seen,” said Hanauer, who is No. 3 on the sport’s wins list. “It’s a deeper pool of talent.”
J. Michael Kelly took over Shane’s seat in the Graham Trucking and he’s No. 2 in the national high points standings.
“Every time we’ve drawn in a heat together, it’s like a final,” Kelly said.
Throw in Kip Brown in the brand-new Spirit of Qatar and Scott Liddycoat in the Beacon Plumbing, if he ever gets the ride back from a newly unretired Villwock, and the stage is set for strong fields.
Though he’s relatively young, Shane is not new to racing. He comes from a racing family and he’s been racing since he was 8 years old in the J hydro outboard class.
His family — father, mother and older sister — have won national titles in various boat racing classes.
Shane’s resume before he came to unlimited hydroplane racing is impressive: three national championships, three world championships and several world speed records. He was inducted into the American Power Boat Association Hall of Champions three times.
He took over the Graham Trucking in 2012 and won the season-ending Oryx Cup World Championship in Doha, Qatar. He finished second to David in the National High Points Championship that year.
Last season, he had wins in Doha and swept the final three races in Seattle, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and San Diego for his first national title.
The strong finish certainly grabbed the attention of the Oberto crew as David announced his retirement just before the season ended.
“Finding somebody who’s willing to drive a race boat is the easy part,” sponsor Larry Oberto said. “The challenge is finding somebody with that maturity and balance as well as the talent.”
Oberto said Shane is that driver, referring to him as a “true diamond.”
As for continuing the Oberto’s dynasty, which has seen the team win four of the last six titles?
“In racing a lot happens,” Oberto said. “I think it’s premature to talk about dynasties or anything else, but what I can say is that the Oberto company is committed to finance and assist Jimmy to have the best equipment we can provide for him.”